Short Answer: Performing prayer perfectly is improbable as you have not been taught it yet, as you are a newcomer to Islam. So don’t worry and take your time learning. As for praying on time, prayer times are actually periods of time and not moments in time.
Asalamu Alaikum (Peace be with you),
Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.
InshaAllah (God willing), we will be able to help you reduce the stress you are experiencing regarding coming to Islam.
Although al-salat (the daily prayers) is the key element of developing your relationship with Allah, performing it perfectly, while you have not been taught is improbable as you are a newcomer to the faith of Islam.
And this is understood. You must learn a thing before you can do a thing.
And you can be sure that Allah knows your situation better than you know it yourself, and He knows that you are sincere in wanting to worship Him as He likes, even if at first you stumble.
Learning to Pray
Think of a parent whose child is taking his or her first steps.
Is the parent mad at the child for stumbling and not walking perfectly?
Of course not.
The parent beams with joy and pride because the child is trying.
It is the same thing with a new Muslim learning to pray. Allah is not going to be angry with you or not accept your prayers as you learn them. Allah is the Most Just and the Most Affectionate.
And even more than a parent beaming at his or her child attempting to walk, as you stumble and attempt to come closer to Allah Almighty in prayer, and in all ways, He runs to be closer to you.
Think about that.
The Almighty Creator will run to be close to you if you just try to be close to Him. How amazing!
Some scholars allow newcomers to Islam to make their salat in the English language, while they are in the process of learning.
However, I suggest you just try to learn al-Fatihah (the first chapter of the Quran. It is only 7 verses long).
Then you can start your salat by saying “Allahu Akhbar” (God is the Greatest).
Then recite al-Fatihah, then bow and then prostrate and do it again.
The form should be right (standing, bowing, prostrating, etc.), even if you stumble with vocal requirements, namely al-Fatihah.
And the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) tells us that the one who reads or recites the Quran and has difficulty doing so will receive a double reward, one for reading and one for exerting much effort.
Praying On Time
As for praying on time, you can look up your location for the times for prayer at islamicfinder.org.
But you should know that the prayer times are actually periods of time and not moments in time.
The fajr prayer (dawn prayer), for example, can be offered anytime between dawn and sunrise.
Of course, the beginning of the time period carries more reward than the end time, but both are acceptable.
If, for some reason, you are not able to offer a certain prayer on time, you can offer it when the first opportunity presents itself.
But remember that the prayers have to be offered in order. If you missed dhuhr prayer (noon prayer), for example, you cannot offer asr prayer (evening prayer) before first praying dhuhr.
Take Your Time Learning
The shaytan (devil) will never cease in his attempt to discourage or distract you in your prayers.
Salat is a direct connection between you and Allah and this is what the shaytan aims to destroy. Shaytan wants us to be far from Allah and the remembrance of Him. You have the strength, inshaAllah, to resist his sad attempt at manipulation!
Know that Islam was revealed over 23 years. And you, as a new Muslim, are in no way expected to have it all together and down pat on day one. Islam is a learning process. So, take your time learning, making the prayer a learning priority.
Remember also that Allah gives strength to those who struggle to be on his straight path. So, I am sure once you start you will not only perform prayer regularly, but you will also enjoy it and feel empowered by it.
We will pray for you and hope you will stay in touch with us.
May Allah bless you and welcome to the Ummah (Global Muslim community).
Thank you and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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